tv [untitled] May 15, 2012 8:00pm-8:30pm EDT
>> yeah. >> we're going back now to mr. murdoch. on the theme of implied deals. the telephone calls about -- three telephone calls just before the start of the iraq war in march 2003. >> yeah. >> i think you're being very clear what it's about, the fact that they probably occurred or did occur, but the substance of the calls you can't assist us with, fair to say? >> i can only give you evidence as far as relates to what i wrote in my diary. i don't actually remember the calls but i did write on march the 11th, 2003, about one of the
calls. but i don't -- i don't remember the calls themselves, but i've obviously spoken to tony blair about one of them and i've written something in my diary. >> which is the odd, not very clever comment. >> yeah. >> perhaps doesn't throw very much more light upon it. >> well, only -- it does make -- it does appear to suggest that it wasn't -- >> let's not use the phrase implied express deal. let's use none of those words. let me understand what's going on here. the government was more than just contemplate ing contemplata
war. it was obviously understandable if they wanted to discover what the reaction from those who were responsible for our media was going to be. and i could equally understand why a prime minister might think it of value to seek to get across, in an unvarnished way, unmediated by other press comment, what was really going on in his mind to try and put the best case, which of course is presumably what he was thinking about, for the conclusion he'd reached. but what i'm interested to know
is where that leads. is it requesting support? is it neutral as to whether you have support? is it -- what's going on here? do you understand my question? >> yeah. i mean, look. by this point, as you say, it was perfectly clear where this was leading. and equally, it was perfectly clear that most of the media were opposed to what we were doing. and mr. murdoch in favor of what we were doing. i think it's also fairs to the prime minister, he would have appreciated that support at that time. because it was probably the most difficult decision he had ever had to make. it was -- it was the most difficult period of the time that i was with him, bar none. but as i say in my statement, in terms of -- i wouldn't want to put too much significance, given all else he was dealing with at
that time, when he was speaking to presidents and prime ministers around the world the whole time, i wouldn't overstate the significance of a couple of phone calls with rupert murdoch. in terms of what i think is going on here -- as i say, i'm relying on what i've written in my diary. what i think is going on is rupert murdoch has placed the call and tony blair has taken that call and rupert murdoch is just wanting to have a chat about what's going on. i go back to the point i made earlier, one of the things i think makes murdoch different to some of the other media and some of what you saw last week, he's a news man. he's interested in what's going on in the world. so i think that's what's going on but i can't help you beyond that because i don't remember the call. but certainly at that time, it was -- it was a very -- he was in a very, very difficult position.
and we were all -- in terms of the decisions that were being taken and the policy that was being pursued, it was hugely unpopular. we knew that. most of the rest of the media, either the papers on the left because they were opposed to the war, the bbc because of the dispute we'd got into with them, the right-wing papers, most of them because they hated tony blair by then, it was a pretty difficult media landscape. and whether rupert murdoch was kind of just signaling, well, kind of the last one standing, i don't know. so that's all i can really give you is what i've put in my diary on that day. but there were two -- according to the cabinet office, there were only -- between 2002 and 2005, tony blair spoke to murdoch six times on the telephone. three of those calls were during this period. and i think it's a combination
of rupert murdoch trying to find out what's going on and also probably just saying, you know, we're going to support you on this. does that help? >> why would he need to do that? >> well, he wouldn't. he wouldn't. but i think it's -- again, i can't really help you beyond what i've put in my statement. but they -- i think it was the biggest issue anywhere in the world at the time. >> i understand that. but it's -- i suppose it goes back to the whole question of the the perception of the reason why this intensely difficult time which you've described and which we all remember simply from what we were watching and reading. we weren't involved in these decisions. and i can understand his talking
to world leaders about this phenomenally important decision. that three times, he should feel it significant enough to chew the custody, talk to, listen to, one newspaper proprietor. and it's what it leads -- it's whether it is appropriate to draw any conclusions about the relationship. because that's i suppose worth thinking about. >> my statement in terms of tony blair would see murdoch, it was usually for a board meeting. i suspect having been in london during that time, would he see him for a cup of did tea, a half hour chat? he probably would. as i said before, he's a very, very significant player in the media landscape. but i don't think it's -- put it
this way, i was, if anything, surprised at how few phone calls there had been when the cabinet office produced this record. not that -- as you seem to think, so many. >> it's not so many, it's just the fact of them against all the other competing demands upon his time. he knew what the view of "the sun" was. they'd made it abundantly clear. he didn't have to speak to mr. purchase dak, he could pick up a copy of "the times." >> pick up a copy of any of the papers around the world. >> yes, yes. >> yeah. no, i can see why you ask that. but i think that -- it is important as well to remember that -- we're looking at this now. you're asking me to -- people are making -- it's odd that i don't remember something i've written about, but i just don't. for me as well, there was so much else going on at that time.
but it doesn't strike me as that odd. not least because by then, i think it's fair to say tony blair had very few strong supporters in the media left. and so whether one of these calls came from him to -- i have no idea. i have no idea. whether one of them was actually about placing the call, i don't know. i don't know. >> well, there's a limit to how far we can go with it and i recognize that. but i read into what you're saying to me that i should not read too much into the fact that the worthiest cause, notwithstanding the pressure on the prime minister's time and all the other pressures he's facing. >> yeah because even at times like this, he would have spoken to all sorts of people. and i think it's -- no, i wouldn't -- i wouldn't read too much into it, to be honest with
you. and i know that one of your previous witnesses has said that, you know, without rupert murdoch's support we couldn't have done the iraq war. complete nonsense. tony blair believed in what we were doing and the government supported what was being done and so did parliament. and that was way, way, way more important than any newspaper support. >> all right. that's probably convenient then to take just a break. >> all rise. >> i think you want to correct something you said in relation to the five pledges in the labor party -- >> yeah, five pledges, i checked, it was not. but it was announced before the
article. >> okay. i have 53 of your statements. the back door point. you say, there tends to be a media presence in downing street most of the time. there's no particular need or desire to advertise a meeting. makes sense to avoid the front door. but not transparent, that, some would say. >> i'd accept that. >> then you say, slightly tongue in cheek, partly our thinking was for the rest of the media, murdoch was uniquely newer ral jurisdiction. >> it's not tongue in cheek, it's what we thought. rue better murdoch went into the building, you started a whole flurry of what's he doing there, what are they talking about? i made the point when i left in 2003, whenever i went back, i tended to go in the same door. it's just a way of avoiding attention, i guess. but i take your point. >> do you think there's something about the fact that we
now make it -- we, the government, now make their links with senior proprietors much clearer, that you're going to get rather more concerned that some proprietors get rather more access than others, and that's not fair? >> i would hope that what comes out of all this is not just a greater openness and transparency that you were talking about this morning. but also perhaps a greater distance in between the two sets of people. now, i think, as i say in my statement, i think there is a real public interest in politics and other walks of life, having relationships with the media that allow them to debate, be challenged, so forth. but i think we could get to a situation where there wasn't this sense of it being rips that get -- that just get mangled.
the political, the personal, the commercial. i can see why you might think they're all just interwoven. >> well, it's a topic i would certainly welcome your view on. but we'll let mr. jay take his own course. then if it's not covered we'll come back to it. >> so there's one further point that is a footnote to page 634 in one of your diaries. you describe him as rupert murdoch's economic guru, often described as rupert's representative on earth. the second point i'm sure is flippant. the first point, murdoch's economic guru. you were making a serious point there, weren't you, mr. campbell? >> i promise it's not passing it off. i didn't write all the footnotes. i think he was an economic adviser. guru, one of those words.
but you know, he was close to him. he was close to him. still is, i think. >> when mr. murdoch was not around and someone was talking to mr. stilt, is there a sense you were talking to mr. murdoch in some way? >> no, i wouldn't say that. i wouldn't say that. he wasn't, as it were, a spokesman. so no, i wouldn't know that. >> tell us about mrs. brooks. obviously we've seen recently -- you say in your statement that you attended i think both her weddings -- >> no, it's only the reception of the first, the wedding of the second. and just on the first one, i was, as it were, independently friendly with the husband. >> would you describe it as a friendship or a relationship born out of circumstances?
>> i think it's difficult, once you're at a certain level in politics -- in fact, again, in one of these books, tony blair and i have a discussion about this -- i think it's difficult to develop friendships with people from any walk of life, where they might feel they can get something from you. i think we were friendly, very friendly, and i liked rebekah. but i think friendship overstates it. most of the friends i have are journalists and people i used to work with when i was a journalist. but i liked her and obviously because of my job and her job, we spoke a lot. >> many people have observed and some witnesses have said these a consummate networker. is that something -- >> yeah. and i think she would see that as part of her job.
>> in the late 1990s, did you assess that her star, as it were, was clearly in the ascendancy, and therefore it was important that mr. blair and the labor government become close to her? >> no, not particularly. i think she was obviously very bright. you always had a -- i had a sense very early on rupert murdoch really liked her. and i think within the rupert murdoch setup, you know, there's that sense of, as it were, bestowing his favor upon. and i think rebekah was a rising star. and i think we would have ensured that tony blair, as i say in my statement, right across the piece of all the media type, not just news international, that over time he would see most of the key people. i think that's what we did. >> on paragraph 64 of her statement she referred to being almost a constant presence in
and around mr. blair's senior cabinet ministers and special advisers. would you agree with that assessment? >> i mean, look. even in all the papers, the prime minister and the government are probably the most covered people, even in the tabloids. so in a sense, what i would say is we were a constant part of her life, everybody else's life. i wouldn't overstate that. and it's -- no, i think that's -- i think that does overstate it. >> in terms of your mobile phone contact with her, we know mr. blair didn't have a mobile phone. about how often a week was it? >> that i would speak to rebekah? >> yes. >> when she was editor? some weeks none, some weeks every day. it would depend -- really would depend what was happening in the news agenda. average, probably once or twice. >> if she wanted personal access
to either mr. blair or a senior cabinet minister, did she tend to organize that through you or not? >> cabinet ministers i can't speak for. in terms of tony blair, probably through me or angie hunter or sally morgan or one of the people around the prime minister. >> did she manipulate the increasingly fractious relationship between mr. brown and mr. blair? >> i don't think so, no. in fact, i think she was -- i mean, it was a very difficult part of my job. the fact that the press were writing about the difficulties in that relationship all of the time and i was having to be out there as an advocate for the government, explaining what we were trying to, do focusing on the important things, so forth. no, i don't think she did. i think -- i knew she spoke to gordon and the people who worked for him and perhaps they sometimes said things to her that they wouldn't have said to us. >> was she increasingly seen as
having influence over mr. murdoch? >> i think i -- my sense always was the most influential person in terms of influence upon murdoch was rupert murdoch. was she increasingly important in the organization? yes. >> were ministers afraid of her? >> i don't -- i'd say ththey sh have been. >> do you think they were? >> i don't think so. one of the reasons why, even though it's fairs to i think i'm somewhat png at national now, rebekah was always very, very straightforward to deal with. there were a number of stories i dealt with her, very difficult for individual ministers.
robin cook was one. steven buyers was another. where she was always -- we had a sense of, i had a job to do, she had a job to do, but we could be straight with each other. >> was "the sun" ever fed stories by you? >> yeah. so were other papers. i would say we were one of the prime sources for every media organization in the country. >> so it wasn't a question of prioritizing "the sun," you feel, it was just part of your job to -- >> well, look. most -- we made a lot of changes from 1997, the biggest of which was putting the briefings on the record. most of my contact with the media was on the record-briefing. every single paper thought we favored other papers. "the mirror" thought we favored "the sun," "the sun," thought we favored "the mirror," "the
telegraph" thought we favored "the times." you wouldn't win, really. >> in terms of "the mirror," at least 60 meetings he had with mr. blair. when mr. blair was prime minister. and you were often present at those meetings. would that be right? >> it might be. i think piers would also accept some of those would be receptions and what does that work out? six a year? is that a lot? piers was the editor of the one labor supporting newspaper. there was an annual lunch that we had at the labor party conference. but certainly i would be present at some of the -- most of those meetings, probably. >> obviously they were on-site. save of course in relation to the iraq war when mr. morgan in particular was hostile. was it a question of enabling "the mirror" to put the best possible gloss on stories? >> this whole thing about spin
is overcome. the public aren't stupid. most of the presence of the prime minister in people's lives would be what they saw on the television. and when they saw him on the news and the house of commons. and so most of the discussions i would have had with piers would actually -- i mean, certainly during the iraq war, we had a fairly fundamental disagreement. and other situations, he would be and was often angry because he thought we favored "the sun," just as "the sun" sometimes thought we favored "the mirror." he was an editor, i was the prime minister's director of communications and strategy. it was, you know, an up and down but pretty good relationship. >> paragraph 46 of your statement, you deal with contacts with other parties as well. interestingly, you recall that.
the middle of 46, page 00821. which his wife complained express newspapers intruded on their privacy. >> as i say, an irony lost on all but her and her husband. >> i'm sure this is an example of genuine amnesia. but i'm not suggesting for one moment that you might be misleading us. but anyway. paragraph 26, please. >> 26? >> 26 now. moving away from proprietors. moving to the more general. let me just ask a question about
them. there's obviously much, much more contact, understandable between proprietors and senior editors with very senior government ministers and people such as yourself. than there would be for other interest groups. is there a risk, do you think, that that access can indeed work the other way so that therefore, there is a risk, which has to be guarded against -- i'm not saying it can't be guarded against -- that their particular interests, and that could be commercial or personal, by which i mean the paper, or it could be that which they are campaigning -- achieves a greater prominence than would be
achieved by somebody in a quite different situation who doesn't have the same sort of access? approximate absolutely. i totally accept that. >> is that a problem? >> yeah, i think it is a problem. i think it means that the interests of one section of the national makeup does have greater access than others who probably should have just as good access to government. so i think that the fact of businesses owning media does give them a disproportionate access. i don't ca i don't think that's the same thing as power but i think that gives them disproportionate access. >> once you've got disproportionate access, the risk is -- >> yeah. >> -- that the influence is that much more potent. >> i agree with that.
>> now, using your experience, both as a journalist and as somebody who's worked in government and the rather higher grade view you've been able to take of life since you ceased, how can that be fixed? >> i think openness is an important thing. and transparency. so when mr. jay said it's a bit odd they come through the back door, i think that's right. i think that -- i think i'm right in saying that, for example, the american president's diary is published. so that people can see what he's doing with his time. but i do think that it has to be -- it can only be fixed -- i say this when i address the point in my statement -- i think
it can only be fixed if both sides of this acknowledge the problem is not just the other side. there is a tendency for those of us, if you like, on the political side to say, it's all your fault. there's an even stronger tendency on this side to say, it's all your fault. i think we can get beyond that. we're not going to get anywhere. so openness, a greater explanation i think from the -- see, i think the politicians have done a very, very bad job in standing up for themselves in terms what was their legitimate role is, what their legitimate functions are, how they have to engage with the media because if they don't, they're going to get blown away. so there's got to be a proper reckoning of each other's power and each other's status. and i think that where we've got to is a position where some elements of the media kindly think they're above politics. and they're even even above the
law. >> it's the point -- slightly different, though. i suggest to you it might be possible to articulate it slightly differently by saying this. that if the story's big enough, the rules don't count. >> again, anything to get a story. >> well, it's actually not quite -- >> a lot of the phone hacking stuff wasn't about big stories at all. >> i agree with that. and i'm not actually talking about what might be criminal. i'm talking about a slightly different idea. possibly i'm borrowing mr. morgan's phrase. i'm taking it out of context. let me start again. let me say this. we, the press, are not necessarily bound by the same
rules that govern other behavior. approximate extension of that, going back to what we were talking about a moment the sense that they don't think anything will happen to them as a result of going beyond those boundaries. because the political class, the police as we've seen, and other parts of our national life, don't treat them in the same way as they treat other organizations and people. and i think that's the bit we need to talk about fixing, that has to be fixed. >> let me add one other element to it. because i am going to ask you about fixing it. the other element is that whereas the press will look to hold col pigss to account, they'll look to help educational authorities, the judiciary to account, with